The Tampa City Council unanimously passed an ordinance that gave a tax exemption to the Floridan Palace Hotel, handing the owners of the downtown landmark building a reduced property tax rate for the next decade.
The reason, according to an ordinance approved on first reading this morning, was the meticulous restoration inside the 85 year-old, 19-story hotel to what it was like in its 1920s heyday. The restoration cost $11 million, according to city documents.
Full attention was paid to detail and the work was overseen by the city's architectural review commission.
Owner Antonios Markopoulos spent $6 million in 2005 for the building, which was in deplorable shape. Vultures inhabited the rooms, flying in through broken windows. Leaks caused water damage on every floor. The hotel officially closed in 1989 and had been a vacant shell since.
On an application for the historical preservation property tax exemption, the hotel owners said that the entire project cost $25 million, including the $11 million spent solely on historical restoration.
The exemption is available under the city's historic property tax exemption ordinance, which designated the building as a local landmark and said the restoration met all the standards for the exemption.
The taxable value of the hotel, according to the Hillsborough County Tax Collector's Office, is $2.7 million and the hotel pays just over $57,000 in property taxes. City officials say the exemption applies only to the increased value of the interior restorations and not to other areas like the parking garage, improvements in the kitchen and such.
The hotel has yet to be assessed by the county property appraiser's office in its current condition.
After seven years of renovation and restoration, the Floridan Palace Hotel opened in July. A sumptuous lobby with a huge crystal chandelier is flanked by a bar that has the original cedar ceiling. A grand ballroom seats 600 and the Crystal Dining Room, 150.
Renovators restored the hotel, at 905 N. Florida Ave., to its former glory, including wrought iron banisters on the stairs, polished stone floors, octagonal inlay ceilings and even hand-painted scenes of angels at the top of the walls.
Thom Snelling, Tampa's director of planning and development, said such exemptions are common. They are given to homeowners and business owners, but few are of the scale of the Floridan Palace Hotel, he said.
"It is big," he said.
The exemption expires in 10 years, he said, and can't be renewed.
Councilwoman Lisa Montelione said four to six such exemptions come in each month.
"It's a big hotel," Montelione said.
She doesn't know how much money the city will be giving up by granting the exemption, but saw no legal reason to deny the application.
The exemption is a good incentive for owners of historically significant buildings to spend money on restoration, she said.
"Anybody who's been in there," she said, "can see the building has been restored to historical accuracy."